New Year’s Resolution: No Porn, No Fap

As the old year ends and a new one begins men and women around the world seize the opportunity to say goodbye to old, unhealthy habits and to begin new habits. It seems to be an almost universal drive. Anyone with the even a minimum of self-awareness is troubled by some habitual thoughts or behaviors and seeks a change for the better. For some, sexual behaviors like masturbation, fapping, extramarital sexual relationships, viewing pornography, etc. have become a destructive force. For such people, these behaviors must be stopped. And so they greet the the new year with a resolution to live life differently going forward. 

The Futility of New Year’s Resolution

Almost as universal as the making of New Year’s resolutions is the abandoning of resolutions. This is true in spades for the sex addict. Chances are, if you are reading this blog post, this isn’t your first go at a resolution to stop your destructive sexual behavior. In fact, if you find your experience described in one of these “am I addicted to sex or pornquestionnaires, then you are likely an old hand at resolving to start anew. In fact, you’re an overachiever in this area! Others may annually abandon their resolutions to exercise more, but you have abandoned your resolve to stop masturbating, or visiting prostitutes or strip clubs, or watching porn on a monthly, weekly, daily, or even an hourly basis! I once heard a life-long smoker say, “Quitting is easy. I do it all the time.”

New Year's Resolution: No Porn, No Fap

Why is that? Why has it been impossible to quit? Most normal resolvers don’t follow through because their habit or lifestyle is not all that troubling. If social, health, or business pressures were strong enough, they could and would make the change. But if you are like me and my friends in Sexaholics Anonymous here in St. Louis, you are not most people. Your sexual behavior is not simply “not-ideal”, it is progressively destructive. The consequences are not simply that you are wasting a bit of your time, the consequences will be your world collapsing around you. So why does someone with so much to lose abandon his or her resolution to live differently?

Resolutions, Will-Power, & The Addict

For a normal person, the new habit is the solution to a problem. I’m a little overweight, so I’ll eat better. I have a lack of energy, so I’ll exercise weekly. I don’t get good sleep, so I’ll cut out the late-night TV. I don’t have much quality time with my family, so I’ll not check email at home. The old habit is the problem, the new is the solution. Not so in the brain of the sex addict.

To the outsider, it appears the habit exchange looks something like: my wife is going to leave me, so I’ll stop looking at pornography. I’m going to get another STD, so I’ll stop one night stands. I’ll get arrested or killed in this bad part of town, so I’ll stop visiting prostitutes. The equation seems rather straightforward and reasonable:

  1. The sexual behavior/habit is the cause of distress or disaster
  2. Ceasing the behavior will end the distress or avert disaster
  3. Therefore: I will stop the behavior

Simple right? But the sex or porn addict’s reasonable resolution to stop is doomed to failure because the logic is all wrong. Here’s what is actually going on:

  1. I’m lonely, or I’m anxious, or I need to unwind, or I’m misunderstood, or I’ve been wronged, or I’m exhausted, etc.
  2. The sexual behavior will bring relief
  3. Therefore: I will do the behavior

I wrote this out as a logical progression, but in reality steps A through C often aren’t even consciously considered. But more to the point, in the addicts world, the sexual behavior is actually experienced as the solution to a problem. It’s the medication that brings relief. And so, before I got into recovery, I saw I had a problem and would resolve (progression 1-2-3), but that reasonable resolution was always short-circuited by the more powerful, subconscious equation (progression A-B-C). And so, I would act out and find relief. Of course that was a short-lived relief, and so I would remorsefully begin another 1-2-3 progression.

The Addict Is Not Stupid

You and I are not stupid. The 1-2-3 resolution makes perfect sense to us. That’s why I did it all the time. I knew my life was slowly ebbing away and I must stop. I knew my wife was going to catch me and would leave me. I knew I was going to lose my job when I inevitably got caught. And I knew that all this could be avoided if I would just stop doing the offending behavior.

AND, I wanted to stop. I hated my actions. Even before I had a wife and a job to lose. I wanted to stop.

The problem with resolving to stop for the sex addict, or the pornography addict, is not that he or she is stupid. It’s not that he or she is a hedonist. It’s not that he or she is weak-willed.

The problem is, the addict is ill. I am sick. My brain malfunctions in a way that when the heat is on, no matter how reasonable my 1-2-3 resolution, no matter how deadly serious I was when I made the 1-2-3 resolution, the A-B-C progression kicks in. The executive-function part of my brain that in other contexts serves me quite well is short-circuited. It doesn’t get a say in the matter. The this-is-a-bad-idea part of my brain is present with my previous 1-2-3 Resolution™ in hand along with decades of supporting evidence. I just don’t show up to review it all in the moment. My brain malfunctions in such a way, that practically speaking, I don’t remember that the last million times I did this thing it was to my detriment. I just do it.

I have lost the power of choice in the matter, therefore, I have lost the power to resolve. All my new year’s resolutions around quitting my sexual acting out were futile because I am powerless to resist the urge, the all-demanding command from within.

The Power That Brings Freedom

What I needed then was not more resolutions and not more will-power. A man who has lost his legs in an accident doesn’t need more resolve to get up and walk, he needs some power outside of himself to aid him in standing upright and walking. I too needed some power greater than myself to restore me to sanity. I couldn’t do it.

The good news is that there is such a power. I and many of my friends in Sexaholics Anonymous have found it. I, who once spent hours on the internet at work and at home surfing for pornography and masturbating, I am now free from that. My life used to be characterized an unending cycle of resolve, act out, remorse, repeat. But now, this has become my experience:

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone—even [the desire to watch porn and masturbate]. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in [pornography]. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward [sex] has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. (adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, p 84-85)

And this:

The very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for [porn or masturbation or extramarital sex], the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules. (adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. p XXIX)

A Different Sort of Resolution

Are you tired of endless broken resolutions to change? Have you come to see the futility of your efforts to reform? Have you begun to think that hope for change and freedom will have to come from outside of yourself? How about resolve to reach out to the members of Sexaholics Anonymous and hear about the solution we have found? Call us or find a meeting nearby and meet many who are as powerless as you when it comes to a destructive sexual behavior but who have found the longed for freedom. In Sexaholics Anonymous, we who are powerless are finding the God of our understanding working through the 12 Step program to bring us a freedom we could otherwise have never known. We would love to share our experience, strength, and hope with you. Do it now! Don’t squander another year. A full and fulfilling life awaits you.

-Anonymous

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